Hey MC - style is overrated. Brews and smokes ain't, dude! I'm with you.
Here's another great BFS from twinsdad (a new member) over in the Heavy Weather Sailing thread. Good stuff!
This is a terrific thread. I have learned so much reading it. I do not have as much heavy weather experience as some of the other folks who have written, but maybe you'll find something useful.
When I bought my current boat, an Express '34, I had to sail it from Annapolis to Sag Harbor, NY. I hired a captain to join me and two friends (who had little sailing experience) sail it. We decided to take the ocean route from Cape May, NJ, rounding Montauk on to Sag Harbor. One reason we picked that route is that there are not many ports to duck into in NJ when you have a 6' draft.
En route, we encountered two squalls with wind speeds in the 40 knot range. When we saw the first one at a distance, all but the captain were concerned. He suggested that we would be best served motoring in to the weather. We took the sails down and lashed what we needed to. It was amazing how quickly the distant squall hit us - no more than 15 minutes. With so much of the boat's weight in the keel, I was surprised how well this light boat handled the rough weather.
What also changed was our attitude. After handling the first squall, we were much more relaxed when the second one hit. I felt I learned some very important lessons. One I knew, which is to never panic in a difficult situation. Another is, you may run in to trouble even when not looking for it. While I am not a proponent of looking for trouble, I would put odds on you Smackdaddy. The reason is that you have thought things through in advance and have acquired some very useful knowledge.
Even with a boat that is most comfortable in the sub 15 knot wind area, things went very well. On a subsequent trip from Sag Harbor to Newport, RI, we left in roughly 25 knot winds (forecast was for diminishing winds). We put out a postage stamp amount of our jib (using a #1), and no main. Trip was slow but steady, and later let out a little more sail even though the wind never died down.
The only mishap was my then girlfriend (now wife) getting seasick. She had never gotten sick before so we didn't think to give her meds beforehand. She survived.
For me the basic lessons are:
1. Don't panic
2. Use your best judgement and always err on the side of being cautious
3. Plan ahead and think through contingencies (we knew where we would head to if we didn't want to continue to Newport)
4. Always have a drink and a laugh after you have had a rough day of it